Friday, September 17, 2010

What Common Standards for Schools Can and Can't Do

DFER board member Andy Rotherham with an article on common standards in the latest issue of Time magazine, which focuses on education:

Today states, school districts, and in some cases individual schools are allowed to set both their academic standards and the tests to determine whether students are reaching them. In other words, lots of different entities get to decide whether to call themselves an "education capital" of the world. Not surprisingly, many claim to be high-performers. And because there is so much conflicting data, it's often hard even for those in the education field to make heads or tails of it.

This localized approach to education policy results in highly variable quality around the country as well as the systemic shortchanging of low-income and minority students. Over the past two decades, the federal government has taken steps, with modest and mixed results, to address achievement gaps. But the variance problem persists. For example, 47% of Massachusetts' fourth-graders are proficient in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (a national test regularly given to a sample of students with no stakes attached) while just 33% of Wisconsin's fourth-graders are. But based on its own state tests, Wisconsin proclaims that 81% of its kids are proficient in reading. All Secretary of Education Arne Duncan can do is complain that states are "lying to children and parents."

A state-led effort is trying to change this. During the past year, organizations representing the nation's governors, chief state education officers and standards experts came together to develop a new set of common academic standards in English and math. A recent analysis by the Fordham Foundation found that the proposed math standards were as good as or better than the standards currently used in every state. Fordham found the English standards to be as good as or better than all but California, Indiana, and D.C.

So far, 37 states have committed to adopt these standards, known as the "Common Core." That's a remarkable number given how controversial national standards were only a decade ago.


School of Thought

What Common Standards for Schools Can and Can't Do

By Andrew J. Rotherham Thursday, Sep. 09, 2010,8599,2016708,00.html#ixzz0z9LwyW2V

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